UM Earns Top 25 ‘Best River and Lake Colleges’ Ranking

August 08, 2018

UM’s Outdoor Program offers guided trips, provides safety training and rents outdoor equipment to make it easier for students to access the outdoors. Photo by Will McKnight.MISSOULA – The University of Montana ranked among the best universities in the nation for its “intimate kinship to water,” according to College Consensus’ recent survey.

UM, which ranked No. 23, was one of just six universities west of the Mississippi River to rank in the top 25 and the only Montana university to earn the ranking.

“With its location on the banks of the Clark Fork River, in the center of one of the most rugged and unspoiled states in the union, the University of Montana is well-known as one of the best colleges for outdoors lovers and nature lovers,” authors of the ranking wrote.

Central to UM’s connection to water is Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Program, which takes students to locations all around Montana, the Rockies and beyond. The Outdoor Program also has an outdoor rental shop and rents gear off all kinds to students and the Missoula community to enable people to enjoy these places on their own as well.

“University of Montana students are extremely lucky to attend a college that is located right next to some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the country,” said Elizabeth Fricke, senior assistant director of the Outdoor Program. “Activities ranging from whitewater kayaking, rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, tubing, river surfing, fishing and swimming are literally right out of our front door, and the opportunities for river activities are plentiful for all levels.”

Universities’ roles in researching and restoring rivers also were considered in the ranking. UM is a leader in aquatic health research, and its River Center spearheads conservation efforts.

“The colleges and universities that are the closest to a river or lake seem to have a strong connection to the region and to the community; they can’t be insular when there’s water flowing all around,” the report authors said.

“Many of the lake and river colleges College Consensus has ranked have a deep relationship with the bodies of water – from researching and studying the wildlife, plants and geography to actively working to preserve, protect and restore rivers and lakes that have been damaged from human activity and neglect.”

The ranking is published online at


Contact: Elizabeth Fricke, senior assistant director, UM Campus Recreation Outdoor Program, 406-243-5176,; Carole Baker, College Consensus marketing director, 512-710-9901,